NORTH COAST LANDHOLDERS EMPOWERED UNDER NEW STRATEGIC REGIONAL LAND USE POLICY
North Coast MPs have welcomed the release of the NSW Government’s new Strategic
Regional Land Use Policy.
The Strategic Regional Land Use Policy features 27 initiatives. Key initiatives include:
- Identification of Strategic Agricultural Land so that proposed projects must go through the new Gateway process, an independent, scientific and upfront assessment of the impacts of mining and CSG production proposals;
- The appointment of a Land and Water Commissioner to restore community confidence in the processes governing exploration activities in NSW and to oversee land access agreements between landholders and miners;
- An Aquifer Interference Policy that provides objective measures to assess and protect underground water across the entire State;
- The requirement for impacts on valuable agricultural land to be carefully assessed at the exploration stage through an Agricultural Impact Statement;
- New Codes of Practice for the coal seam gas (CSG) industry covering well drilling standards and hydraulic fracturing;
- Creation of 40 new positions to meet increased assessment, compliance and community liaison functions, with most of these located in regional NSW; and
- CSG producers to invest in local communities through Regional Community Funds.
Minister for the North Coast and Member for Ballina Don Page said, “I'm aware of
community concern in relation to the CSG issue, in particular with regard to potential
impacts on aquifers.
“The Deputy Premier and key Ministers have worked very hard to put in place appropriate protective mechanisms and safeguards, which were not there previously.
“The Aquifer Interference Policy will apply across the whole of the State and not just to Strategic Agricultural Land, which is a huge improvement on the draft policy,” Mr Page said.
Member for Lismore Thomas George said, “Like so many in our region, I was long frustrated that the former Labor Government failed to introduce stringent controls to address legitimate community concerns about environmental standards for CSG exploration and production.
“We are determined to make sure licence holders are both aware of and adhere to the high standards expected of them.
“The NSW Government will not, under any circumstances, compromise the health and sustainability of our water resources,” Mr George said.
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said, "This has been an exhaustive consultative process which has resulted in Australia’s most stringent policies being adopted on CSG exploration to ensure protection of our water and prime agricultural land.
"The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has taken a precautionary approach to get this right after Labor issued licenses without regard for the environment.
"This policy will ensure mining and agriculture can coexist with mutual benefits."
Strategic Agricultural Land in the North Coast will be identified when the region is mapped as part of the upcoming review of the Far North Coast Regional Strategy. In the meantime, the NSW Government will soon release guidelines which allow landholders to have their property identified as biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land if certain criteria are met.
If a property is identified as biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land, the Gateway process will apply to any subsequent State significant mining or coal seam gas production proposals.
The Land and Water Commissioner will restore community confidence in the processes governing exploration activities in NSW, including overseeing the development of land access agreements, publishing general remuneration information, appointing mediators where required, and providing advice on all CSG exploration wells in areas like the North Coast that have not yet been mapped.
Any mining or CSG production proposal that would potentially impact on agricultural land or water in the region must include an Agricultural Impact Statement in its development application.
The new Aquifer Interference Policy outlines the protection of underground water resources through objective assessment, including the risk of seepage between aquifers, impacts on the water table, water pressure levels, and water quality changes in different types of groundwater systems.
The CSG industry will now be forced to comply with two new world-best Codes of Practice during both gas exploration and production, or face enforcement action including prosecution and title cancellation. These Codes of Practice have been reviewed by experts co-ordinated by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane, to ensure independent scientific rigour.
CSG producers can contribute to new Regional Community Funds, with a NSW Government contribution funded by ending the royalty holiday for CSG producers.
More information about the Strategic Regional Land Use Policy, including the Aquifer Interference Policy, CSG Codes of Practice, fact sheets and frequently asked questions, is available at www.nsw.gov.au/strategicregionallandus